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Battling The Champs

Friday, 11.14.2008 / 12:08 PM ET / Preview
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Battling The Champs
The Panthers take on the Wings at the BankAtlantic Center for the first time since 2005. Last year, Florida lost a 5-2 affair in Detroit. (AP Photo/Jerry S. Mendoza)
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com

In coach Peter DeBoer’s words, the Panthers play tonight at the BankAtlantic Center against “arguably, the best team in the world.”

The defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings visit the BankAtlantic Center tonight at 7:30 p.m., for what will be the Panthers’ biggest test of the season. Trying to stretch their winning streak to three for the first time this season, the Panthers will play a Red Wings team that is 10-2-3 and an offense that is currently the second-most explosive squad in the league.

And DeBoer made it clear what the consequences could be if the Panthers don’t play a sound, smart game.

“If you don’t show up to play (the Red Wings) – and we talked about it in the morning meeting – this is a team that will make you look really bad and embarrass you,” he said.

Coming off a 4-3 victory Thursday in Tampa, the Red Wings are 7-1-1 on the road this season and have the league’s top-ranked power play both home and away. The roster is a who’s who of All-Stars, including Marian Hossa (8 goals, 13 assists), Henrik Zetterberg (10 goals), Nicklas Lidstrom (10 assists) and Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom.

The Wings are loaded with skill, but they’re certainly not afraid of finishing their checks and banging in the corners and in front of the net.

“For me, watching them on tape, their players, even their skilled players, play the game the right way,” DeBoer said. “They backcheck as hard as they forecheck. They win a lot of puck battles and they have a group of guys who are always around the net and score those goals in those dirty areas of the rink, in the blue paint and around the crease.”

Goalie Craig Anderson, who’s stopped 68 of the last 69 shots he’s faced while beating Anaheim and Tampa, will be in goal. Forward Radek Dvorak, who missed Wednesday’s game with a hamstring, will be back in the lineup. Gregory Campbell, who scored two goals against the Lightning, will be a game-time decision due to a lingering hand injury.

DeBoer said the Panthers continue moving forward and have been helped by the fact he’s been able to skate six healthy defensemen throughout the past two games.

“You see a direct result from our specialty teams,” DeBoer said. “We have fresher defensemen on the ice. The penalty kill is better as a result, our power play is better as a result. Not just the fact we’re scoring some goals, but we’re getting offensive zone time and quality shots. It’s a direct result of being healthy back there and having fresh guys on the ice.”

Goalie Tomas Vokoun, who missed Thursday’s practice, made it through Friday’s morning skate as he continues to improve from minor back and hip issues.

“The back is much better,” Vokoun said. “There’s still a bit of an issue with the hip, but I just have to keep getting treatments and, hopefully, it will get better.”

Vokoun said the problem started with his hip.

“For a couple weeks I had a bad hip and I think it kind of went a little bit into my back,” he said. “It was really hard for me to move (during Wednesday’s morning skate). It was on the same side as the hip…all those things are kind of related. With the hip sore, you try to substitute a little bit with your back muscles when you move… I think (during) that long flight (from California), you really stiffen up and you end up in that sitting position all that time.”

Vokoun said he’ll be ready when its his time.

“We’re playing good, Andy (Craig Anderson) is playing great,” Vokoun added. “This is a team sport and we’re here for winning. It’s a long season and a long haul in how we get judged. I’ll do my work out there (on the ice) and be ready.”




1 WSH 53 40 9 4 175 120 84
2 FLA 54 32 16 6 150 122 70
3 NYR 54 31 18 5 153 135 67
4 NYI 53 29 18 6 150 131 64
5 DET 54 28 18 8 136 132 64
6 BOS 54 29 19 6 159 148 64
7 TBL 53 29 20 4 140 127 62
8 PIT 53 27 19 7 138 135 61
9 NJD 55 27 21 7 122 123 61
10 MTL 55 27 24 4 147 145 58
11 PHI 53 24 20 9 127 138 57
12 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
13 OTT 56 25 25 6 157 173 56
14 CBJ 56 22 28 6 140 173 50
15 BUF 55 21 28 6 125 151 48
16 TOR 53 19 25 9 122 149 47


J. Jagr 51 17 21 14 38
J. Jokinen 54 11 27 12 38
J. Huberdeau 54 10 28 12 38
V. Trocheck 54 17 18 3 35
A. Barkov 43 16 19 13 35
R. Smith 54 18 16 12 34
B. Pirri 50 11 13 -4 24
A. Ekblad 50 10 13 20 23
B. Campbell 54 5 17 20 22
N. Bjugstad 39 9 10 -1 19
R. Luongo 24 13 5 .928 2.17
A. Montoya 8 3 1 .929 2.01

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